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The Political Fraud of the Canadian Peoples’ Social Forum

World Socialist Web Site

August 20, 2014

By Carl Bronski

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Thousands of people are preparing to travel to Ottawa this week to attend a pan-Canadian Peoples’ Social Forum (PSF) that is billed “as a space for social movements to meet and converge, for the free expression of alternative ideas and grassroots exchanges and for artistic reflections on a diversity of demands and aspirations.”

According to PSF campaign material, those demands revolve around opposition to “neo-liberal and neo-conservative policies in Canada based on the guiding principles of social justice, Original Peoples’ rights, sustainable development, international solidarity and participatory democracy.” One of the main slogans for the gathering is “Fighting Harper and Beyond.”

The Forum is a political fraud. It is aimed not at fighting for the independent political mobilization of the working class, but rather at its subordination to the ostensible “left” wing of the bourgeois political establishment. In the name of fighting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and the “neo-liberal” agenda, the trade unions, with the middle class left and pseudo-Marxist organizations in tow, are seeking to harness the growing opposition of the working class to the offensive of the ruling elite behind a campaign to defeat the Conservatives at the polls in 2015 and install a “progressive” government. That would mean a Liberal or New Democratic Party (NDP) government, or more likely a Liberal-NDP coalition.

A model for the political operation being prepared by these so-called progressive forces was provided by their near-unanimous support in December 2008 for a would-be Liberal-NDP coalition government committed to a continuation of Canada’s neocolonial war in Afghanistan and further massive tax cuts benefiting the wealthy. More recently, in this year’s Ontario election, under the pretext of preventing a Conservative victory, the unions and their middle-class hangers-on lined up behind the right-wing Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne, which after its reelection announced an escalation of its policy of draconian social spending cuts and brutal attacks on workers’ rights.

This is no aberration. Since the 1980s, the unions have been engaged in negotiating the lowering of wages and benefits, the elimination of jobs, the curtailment of pensions, and the intensification of the exploitation of their members. A generation of workers has spent its entire work-life without experiencing a strike—or only losing strikes.

The unions have bowed with barely a peep to Harper’s strikebreaking legislation in a series of national disputes at Air Canada, Canadian Pacific Railways, and Canada Post. When the massive 2012 Quebec student strike threatened to provoke an eruption of working class opposition to the austerity agenda of big business, the unions moved to shut it down. The Quebec Federation of Labour wrote to the Canadian Labour Congress demanding that they provide no support to the students and the CLC gladly obliged.

Beginning in the latter half of the 1990s, when the Chretien-Martin Liberal government was implementing the greatest social spending cuts in Canadian history, many unions adopted a policy of “strategic voting” in national and provincial elections, i.e., a vote for the Liberals in most constituencies. Those still plumping for the New Democratic Party have supported the social democrats as they have lurched ever further to the right, imposing austerity wherever they hold office, electing a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister (Tom Mulcair) as national leader, and emerging as enthusiastic cheerleaders for Canada’s participation in imperialist interventions and wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Libya

So much for “fighting” the policies of the ruling class.

The PSF event is one of the many off-shoots of the World Social Forum, founded in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001 and dedicated to championing “counter-hegemonic globalization.” Opposing “neo-liberalism” but not capitalism, the Forum promotes the illusion that the ruling class can be pressured into returning to Keynesian policies and that the nation-state can be a progressive constraint on rapacious global capital.

The real issue, however, is that capitalism has broken down under the weight of the same contradictions that led in the first half of the last century to two world wars, the Great Depression, and the horrors of fascism. The great progressive potential of a globally integrated economy runs up against its domination by private corporations and the capitalist nation-state system. Only the abolition of this outmoded system by the united political struggle of the international working class can open the way for a harmonious development of the world economy to meet social needs, not the profit interests of a few.

The annual Social Forum meetings have, over the years, received the backing of a whole host of bourgeois governments, union bureaucracies and capitalist foundations including support from former right-wing French President Jacques Chirac, successive pro-austerity governments in Brazil, the European Union, the American AFL-CIO, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

The four-day gathering in Ottawa is chiefly sponsored by trade unions and trade union federations from across the country. Other sponsors include aboriginal, feminist and non-governmental organizations, the Council of Canadians, and the Desjardins Caisses populaires, Canada’s sixth largest financial institution.

The organization of a Canadian PSF was initiated by Alternatives, a Montreal based non-governmental organization. Unfortunately, the “alternatives” that animate the organizers and sponsors of the event are squarely lodged within the existing capitalist socio-economic system. This is only underscored by the fact that they immediately sought the patronage of the pro-capitalist trade union apparatus.

There will, no doubt, be many in attendance who agree—and many who do not—that a radical, systemic change is needed in the face of the proliferation of imperialist war, social misery, authoritarianism, and ecological catastrophe. But those genuinely seeking a way out of the world capitalist crisis will be sorely disappointed by the thin political gruel on offer at the gathering.

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“But you won’t find Naomi Klein writing the Libyan chapter of the “shock doctrine” (Gulf News, 26/10/2011)–Naomi Klein was too busy throwing her support behind a Canadian politician, Nathan Cullen, who voted in support of NATO’s intervention in Libya, with little regret.” – MAXIMILIAN FORTE 

The Forum begins on August 21 with a rally addressed by the neo-Keynesian and “anti-globalization” activist Naomi Klein, and a march to Parliament Hill. That the rally and march are scheduled for a Thursday afternoon when most workers are unable to attend speaks volumes about the social forces the organizers are most interested in attracting. Indeed, it is expected that the largest contingents will come from officials from the trade union bureaucracy and the non-governmental organizations.

Over the ensuing weekend there will be almost 500 workshops. Aside from anarchist-minded groups promoting petty-production and portraying science and technology as the problem, and the seemingly obligatory sessions aimed at self-absorbed elements of the middle class—“Alternate Cures Rejuvenation Healing and Tibetan Monk Exercises,” “Urban Gardening,” or “Veganism, Anti-Colonialism and Animal Liberation”—the workshop line-up is peppered with sessions overseen by the various purveyors of identity politics intent on dividing the working class on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation.

Thus, the Niagara Queer People of Colour will advise attendees on their particularly specific perspective, an anti-racist group will discuss Caucasian “Fear of a Black Planet” and a number of sessions on the oppression of aboriginal peoples will seek to determine the extent of “settler” (a term referring to both the entire past and current non-Aboriginal population of Canada) “responsibility” for the genocidal policies of the ruling class. What is rejected outright in all these approaches is the central understanding that the principal “oppressed community” in Canada (and around the world) is the working class—black, white, native, gay, straight, male or female—and that only this class has the social power to break the stranglehold of big business over socio-economic life and to radically reorganize society in the interests of the majority.

The turn by those who want to fight the existing system has to be toward an international socialist program and the great challenge of assembling and educating a revolutionary movement with deep roots in the global working class. This is not a project to be undertaken lightly, but outside of that perspective there is no way to address the social disaster and danger of world war and ever-increasing global misery produced by the present system.

The Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site are fighting to overcome the crisis of working-class leadership and build a movement that will politically prepare and lead the working class in fighting for a workers’ government and socialism.

Ukraine’s Weapons in the Information War

Boston Mail

June 17, 2014

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How a small country was able to answer the Kremlin propaganda machine

In recent months, the attention of many Europeans has focused on Ukraine, where nine months ago, political stability gave way to economic and social crisis. Reports from the Donetsk region, where the Kiev authorities are trying to suppress a pro-Russian militia, have become commonplace for European newspapers and television channels – the whole world is watching the progress of the military conflict. However, at the same time, on the internet another war has developed – an information war. In Europe, it is of interest only to a narrow circle of specialists, although it is progressing much more rapidly than the armed confrontation in the Donetsk region. Without stopping for a second, it affects a lot more people, and the financial burden of its execution may exceed the costs of Kiev’s anti-terrorist operation. Its features, tools and key players are covered in detail in a confidential report by the German consulting company Mediasoprotivlenie, which has been obtained by this editorial office.

The authors of the document provide detailed analysis of the actions of the Ukrainian side, which has allowed one of the poorest countries in Europe to lead an active propagandistic role in the Russian blogosphere, by using Russian bloggers. The financial assistance provided to Euromaidan by Ukrainian oligarchs and U.S. government funds USAID, NED, IRI and NDI has been of considerable help in backing this goal. Via these channels, organizations have conducted funding to liberal journalists, opposition members and whole parties that are popular in the Russian segment of the Internet. Ukrainian businessmen have entered into a kind of pact to achieve this goal during the political crisis.

The conveyors of Euromaidan’s values in Russia are an already existing network of Internet experts and influential speakers, whose names are also listed in the document. At the same time, the most influential figures in this group are not always known to a wide range of internet users. Thus, the name of Oleg Kozlovsky means little to an ordinary Russian citizen, but it it appears in the report as one of the central elements of the propaganda machine. A small informational note reports that he has been actively cooperating with the IRI fund for several years, and was one of the most important mayoral campaign activists for Alexei Navalny last summer. It reports that his resource Stopfake, which reveals Russian “propaganda,” also received a grant from the American foundation, beating out competitors’ projects. According to experts, the effectiveness Stopfake is at a relatively high level, although in Russia demand for it and its popularity are much lower than in Ukraine. In addition, some “fakes” denounced by the project’s experts are apparently provocations themselves created by Euromaidan activists.

As noted above, in the struggle for a counter-propaganda grant, Kozlovsky outperformed his competitors, and at this point pops up the name of another campaigner for Navalny. Maxim Katz was previously known around the world as a poker enthusiast – he was an active and successful player, and then became a backer who sponsored capable players’ participation in tournaments. However, in 2011 he became interested in politics and he began consistently promoting liberal views and criticism of Russian authorities on his blog. Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, Katz has taken an openly anti-Russian stance, and even for a time ran the Antipropaganda project. Using Katz’s own methodology, it determines the amount of informational distortion in news materials from Russian and foreign media. Antipropaganda’s research results have repeatedly been criticized by pro-Kremlin bloggers – according to its research, Ukrainian journalists did not allow themselves to manipulate the facts while stories in the Russian media studiously avoided the truth. The moment the Russian Federation’s authorities adopted amendments that impose restrictions on anonymous funds transfers, Antipropaganda suddenly closed as quickly as it had opened. Currently the opposition is considering opening a Kiev branch of its urban initiative City Projects, the funding for which is likely to have already been made by European figures.

Another name mentioned by American experts more often than others is Vitaly Shushkevich. This opposition internet technologist makes no secret that he receives funding from the IRI and is a regular at events organized by the foundation in European countries. In March this year he was one of the most aggressive critics of the annexation of Crimea, calling on Ukrainians not to repeat the mistakes of Saakashvili and kill “Russian agents” on the spot. According to information given in the report, Shushkevich is now helping to lead election campaigns of several opposition candidates for the Moscow City Duma.

However, criticism of the government by liberal activists is a rather traditional phenomenon for Russia and does not cause any surprise. What did surprise many was the support for the Ukrainian revolution from the right-wing party Democratic Choice headed by Vladimir Milov. Milov called the burning alive of several dozen pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa “local resistance in the most vividly illustrated form.” Following this, the politician issued an appeal to the people of Donbass, in which he stated that they were “not Russian” and demanded that they “do not entangle Russia in their internal conflict.” It is noteworthy that one of Milov’s party companions – blogger Stanislav Yakovlev – criticized the liberal opposition and in describing the situation in the Donbass took a consistently pro-Ukrainian side.

According to the information provided in the report, the source of financing of Milov’s political party is structures that are close to the new president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. This explains the sharp ideological turn taken by the party nine months ago.

The report also notes the extreme effectiveness of the opposition movement’s anonymous, humorous Twitter accounts. Due to the lack of actual control over the system of microblogging and anonymous authors, fighting their posts is practically impossible for the Russian authorities, and Ukrainians are actively taking advantage of this in Russia.

Experts note that the increase in the number of blogs and social media users in Russia to a certain point played into the hands of the liberal public, primarily because the middle class had access to it and they tend to be liberal thinkers. However, in the last few years the main growth in this area has been achieved by the inhabitants of the provinces, among whom are high numbers of supporters of the authorities. This phenomenon significantly changed the balance of opinion in the Russian blogosphere, and, according to experts, the promotion of propaganda among this section of the population is currently the most important task of Ukrainian “agents.”

Photo by bloomberg.com

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